21 Dec 2017

Brexit export appeal to UK

8:27 pm on 21 December 2017

The government is waiting for the UK to respond to a trade proposal asking for it not to split red meat quotas during Brexit negotiations.

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Photo: AFP / FILE

New Zealand exports about $2 billion of red meat to countries in the European Union and has a tariff-free quota of 228,000 tonnes of sheep meat a year.

Currently, the quota is flexible and can be divided between the UK and European countries depending on the market.

However, the UK and EU are planning to split the quota after Brexit, which could depress prices and imbalance the red meat market.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May gesturing as she speaks during the weekly Prime Ministers Questions session in the House of Commons.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May gesturing as she speaks during the weekly Prime Ministers Questions session in the House of Commons. Photo: AFP / PRU

Beef and Lamb New Zealand's General Manager Policy and Advocacy Dave Harrison said New Zealand has written to the UK government with a simple proposal called a Common Quota Ceiling.

He said it set out a way that the quota could be sent in almost exactly the same way as it is now, even if the UK leaves the European Union, and preserve the status quo for New Zealand.

Beef and Lamb New Zealand is talking to officials in the European Commission, the UK, and farming groups in both areas.

"To try and get them to understand the benefits of having the flexibility we do now and what that means in terms of being able to respond to markets and be responsibly putting product into parts of the market that can sustainably cope with it," he said.

"We know that they've read our proposal and we know that they're thinking about it."

But Mr Harrison said the trick was getting the UK and EU to focus on something that was a small issue in what was a much bigger split.

"That's the challenge ... to get them to be more civil on something that's not a particularly big issue for them.

"But I do think they are listening to us ... they are thinking hard about it."

Beef and Lamb New Zealand did not know when a response from the UK was due, he said.

"We didn't start this process (Brexit) and all we want to do is understand how existing commitments are going to be met into the future."

Mr Harrison said it was the number one issue facing sheep meat exporters.

"Maintaining that access is crucial to us because the markets we've built there over the past 30 odd years are not easy to replicate anywhere else ... it's a fundamental issue."

Under the proposal New Zealand's combined exports to the UK and EU27 would not exceed 228,000 tonnes in total, and the flexibility to decide where to send would be retained.

Beef and Lamb New Zealand said this can be done in a simple way as New Zealand currently administers the quota and can ensure no more than 228,000 tonnes in total is sent to the UK and EU27 combined.

The next phase of the Brexit negotiations is on the horizon.

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